Tennessee’s 2018 signing class was far from stellar, and Jeremy Pruitt is partially responsible for that.
The early signing period made it nearly impossible to sign an elite class for any coach who took over a program following the 2017 season. Just look at the rankings.
The Vols finished 20th with Pruitt. Texas A&M finished 17th with first-year coach Jimbo Fisher. Florida finished 14th with first-year coach Dan Mullen. At less-desirable programs, Mississippi State finished 27th with first-year coach Joe Moorhead and Arkansas finished 55th with first-year coach Chad Morris. Stepping outside the SEC, the most successful first-year coach was Willie Taggart at Florida State. His class finished 11th.
The NCAA needs to look long and hard at when it places its initial early signing period. The inaugural early signing period was held in mid-December. Between assembling a staff and coaching Alabama in the college football playoffs, Pruitt didn’t have adequate time to recruit an entire class. I’d suggest moving the early signing period to August and allowing prospects out of a commitment if there’s a coaching change.
Nevertheless, Pruitt could have handled the transition better. With the early signing period, no coach should be expected to or allowed to continue to coach their team through bowl season. It seems admirable but it’s actually short-changing a coach’s new employer. I’m betting Pruitt could have acquired another elite prospect or two had he had more time to recruit in December and January instead of helping Alabama win yet another national championship.
Sure, Kirby Smart made it work when he left Alabama for Georgia, but the Bulldogs’ roster didn’t need as much of an overhaul as UT’s roster does – and there wasn’t an early signing period then, either.
Some said at the time that Pruitt’s decision to stay through the season made him more likeable, that it showed loyalty. Well, that time could have been spent recruiting and getting to know his current players.
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